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KU engineering students take fourth in race car contest

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This past weekend was the big payoff for a group of KU School of Engineering students who work year-round, sometimes putting in 80 or more hours a week, to design and build a Formula-style race car from scratch.

After a first-ever overall championship at last year's Society of Automotive Engineers Formula competition in Lincoln, Neb., this year's Jayhawk Motorsports team followed it up by finishing fourth overall out of 80 registered teams at this year's contest.

And this year was a first for the squad: It built not one but two cars from scratch over the course of the year, one with a combustion engine and one that's entirely electric. (In the past, they've re-made old cars into electric models, rather than building one anew.) And their electric car finished third in a separate competition.

"It wasn't first like last year," senior Jordan Faltermeier told me, "but it was a great achievement for building two cars."

These competitions aren't just a race. In fact, the cars don't even move for the competition's first two days, when they're scrutinized by judges checking for various technical requirements. And before the students race their cars, judges pore over them some more to examine their noise levels, brakes, stability and other things.

The "fun part," though, is, yeah, a race, Faltermeier said: a one-lap time trial, conducted on an airport runway.

"There were a lot of fast cars," he said.

Some of the students on the team are seniors using it as a class project, and others are underclassmen volunteering their time just so they can have some experience by the time they get to take the lead. They spend countless hours designing, building, testing and repeating, to make sure their vehicles are as close to flawless as they can get.

"With engineering, you're going to fail," Faltermeier said. "But as long as you can learn from that failure and improve, then you can be a good engineer."

With blogging, I am going to fail — unless you send me some KU news tips at merickson@ljworld.com.

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